Veterans in need of a place to call home soon may have that.
Jo Coleman-Williams and BuddyWatch, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping vets, broke ground on Wednesday on a future site for cottages that will house veterans.
“It seemed to me that many of them were adrift and needed a purpose, so we founded this organization with the goal of building homes for homeless veterans,” she said.
Coleman-Williams founded BuddyWatch in 2017 and found inspiration very near to her — her own son.
She had two sons who deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/ Enduring Freedom. One came home and started his own business.
For her other son, she made frequent trips to Washington, D.C., visiting several different government buildings. Along the way, she had to step over homeless veterans sleeping underneath the viaducts, she said. She also cited the footage of veterans in tents outside a Los Angeles Veterans Administration clinic waiting to get seen.
“There is no excuse for that,” Coleman-Williams said. “We’ve had 20 years to resolve this problem and we haven’t. It’s time to do better and put our ‘thank you for your service’ into work.”
Her son Michael Coleman was with the 2/69 Armor Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade during Operation Iraqi Freedom and acknowledged his own struggles with homelessness since leaving the service.
“I have several friends who have struggled with homelessness. It was hard to find someone to help, the VA being overcrowded,” he said. “The help I’ve gotten is from other veterans. It is my opportunity to help other veterans along.”
The property, off Highway 17 just south of Midway, is five acres and Coleman- Williams estimates they can put 26 cottages, from 600 to 800 square feet, on the site, depending on where septic systems are put in and how close those units can be built.
Coleman-Williams, a mental health provider by profession, founded BuddyWatch in 2017. She has worked with traumatized veterans and their families. She also has operated Coastal Family Counseling since 2012, and there will be mental health facility on site.
“Mental health is very important,” she said, citing the spot belonging holds on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. “We will see them and we will be hanging out with them in the common area, so they will know they are welcomed and they are loved.”
BuddyWatch also has a patent pending on a bird feeder and proceeds from its sales will go toward the facility.
Coleman-Williams also is accepting any volunteer help and donations.
“If we can get enough attention and enough volunteers and supporters, we ought to be able to start building these homes this year,” she said. ‘We also want to make it self-sustaining.”
Veterans also are a resource who aren’t put to theirfulluse,Coleman-Williams said. She also hopes these cottages will help cut down on another problem that has plagued veterans — suicide.
“Once we get them in forever homes, they can figure out what they want to be,” she said. “It’s having future plans and a mission that helps keep them alive. A lot of them get discouraged and when they get hopeless, that (suicide) becomes an option.”
Her son believes the effort will pay dividends for veterans, and the community.
“If you give a veteran a chance to get himself going, give him an opportunity, then they will shine,” he said. “They will take care of their environment and their community. I think it will be great “Like my mother said, we can do better. We’ve got to do better.”